Ein Zeitgeist, dem die Zeit fehlt

A spirit of the times that lacks time

That this is so is best expressed in our language. Terms like fast fashion, fast food, multitasking or power nap show that speed determines our lives. After all, time = money and efficiency is the testimony of a successful life. Or?

And is sustainability actually also a matter of deceleration? Yes, because it is not only found in the reusable coffee-to-go cup, but is also expressed through our lifestyle. It shows itself in taking the time to separate garbage, repair broken things or look for alternatives to plastic. At first sight this may sound quite elaborate and it is not as if time is passing by like in the pictures of Salvador Dalí?

In reality it is not difficult to take time and leisure to allow oneself the luxury of a satisfying, sustainable life. Our fast-moving society makes it difficult for us to live like this.

Much thought is given to the earth's resources and how we can use raw materials responsibly. In doing so, we overlook the fact that our time is also a non-surplus raw material. Responsible use of our time resources is demonstrated by escaping the constant acceleration in order to be able to act more sustainably and self-determined again.

Why time is so scarce, the sociologist and acceleration researcher Hartmut Rosa knows and names three reasons for the general, chronic lack of time. First of all, the increasing technical acceleration contributes its share: An e-mail can be written faster than a letter and more and more services or goods are being provided in the shortest possible time. This leads to the second reason: the change in social expectations. We expect quicker reactions and want to be absolutely socially changeable; job, partner, place of residence or habits are changed at a much faster pace. Flexibility is our new roots. And thirdly, the whole acceleration leads to the desire to do more and more in less time.

We now suspect that technology should actually help to gain time. Why is it still lacking?

Rosa explains this using the example of e-mails: In the past, people used to write maybe ten letters in an hour. Today, you can get ten e-mails in half an hour. So in theory, half an hour more time is available. However, we write five to six times more mails than we used to write letters. Because almost everyone does that, a huge mountain of information is piling up in front of us that needs to be read and processed. The result is that per mail we have much less time to reflect and react. So the feeling of being rushed through the daily routine accompanies us. Paradoxically, however, this also brings a kick. We need speed, we need sprinkling, we need action - and we enjoy life without speed limits. Independence gives us a feeling of happiness and freedom. Having many options and experiencing as much as possible seems to make our lives richer.

The side effect of this is an excessive awareness of the preciousness of time. Let's not do nothing. We have the feeling that we have to justify all activities. Many people have forgotten how to be self-sufficient; this is especially evident when the TV is broken or the iPad does not work. And Rosa also concludes that it is a misunderstanding of the fast society to be able to decide about our time with sovereignty.

That's why it's now time to make our own move and impose a speed limit on the pace. The true appreciation of time can be seen in simply doing nothing, enjoying its preciousness and reflecting on the essentials.

A big, bold line in the calendar could help. The pondering over what one could or should do then has to be put aside. In the same way we have to bear it when nothing great happens or nothing great comes around. In this way we learn to free ourselves from the pressure of having to decide and to cultivate leisure.

For such a time of leisure no vacation is necessary. It is enough to simply do something different from the usual normal things; not to let the TV show you something, but to do something for yourself.

Let's take a brief look at the time that flows in Dalí style, accepting that this is so, and then turn to the things that make our lives more beautiful. As chance would have it, these are often things that are good for the environment, such as baking bread yourself, planting healing herbs in the garden, repairing things, boiling down (with the latter, by the way, you always have a nice gift in store). Things like these earth us and make us happy.

Are these abilities that seem familiar to us? Probably from hearsay, because these things were already done by our grandparents. Yeah, our grandparents had the real life hacks! Let's take the time to learn how to fix it or just to think about what we do every day to make garbage and find alternatives. Maybe we can arrange to borrow (or share) things. Sharing things that are rarely used is quite sustainable. So why not pass on the pressure washer, raclette or camping equipment in the neighbourhood? Surely, the one or other nice conversation is still included.

Talking about sharing: why not the job as well? Sometimes it is possible that two part-time employees can share a full-time job. Downshifting is the keyword - a cool term for "emergency brake" in a job. It means taking a shorter career path and replacing it with a healthy work-life balance, perhaps also to avert stress-related illnesses. Another possibility would be the sabbatical. In contrast to downshifting, this is not a long-term decision and after a certain time you go back to work.

It takes courage to leave your career behind. Nevertheless it reduces the stress level significantly; it also reduces the income, but in return it maximizes the time. It is often also referred to as "voluntary simplicity". Experience reports about this step show a significantly higher quality of life. Sometimes circumstances may have changed: a loan has been paid off or the cost of living has decreased. In any case, this is a way to escape the circle of consumption and prosperity. A high income is usually invested in a large house or expensive car, which then entails follow-up costs. In order to maintain the standard of living associated with this, higher financial obligations are added and the circle is complete. But this does not make you really happy. You struggle; as if you were rolling through your own life like in these huge walk-on-water balls - only faster.

Wouldn't it be nice to just get out of this ball? Then we would have solid ground under our feet and could put down roots. We would then need to buy less, own less, have more time for sustainability and things that contribute to a really good life. We would have both feet firmly on the ground and enjoy the time. So the equation mentioned at the beginning is not correct; because time is not = money, time is (life)quality.